How Does the Subconscious Help in Hypnosis?

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The subconscious is responsible for many of the phenomena that we observe and experience with hypnosis.  Further, I teach many of my patients how to interact with their subconscious so that they can gain from its insight, knowledge, and wisdom. 

What is the subconscious? 

I tell my patients that the subconscious represents the part of their mind of which they are usually unaware.  For example, the subconscious is in charge of regulating the body’s breathing and coordinating walking.  The subconscious also contains thoughts and feelings that the patient may not recognize.  Sometimes, these subconscious contents lead to development of physical symptoms.  For example, a child who is afraid she cannot trust her friend, but does not admit this to herself, may develop dizziness when she is around this friend.  The subconscious also appears to be a storehouse of knowledge that the patient may have forgotten consciously, and wisdom that a child may not use in day-to-day life because he does not stop to consider all he knows before he makes a decision. 

The subconscious can be observed in action outside of the consultation room, when people shake their heads without realizing it, shift their gaze when they are not telling the truth, or suddenly come up with an inspirational idea “out of the blue.” 

Involuntariness 

Many people feel that during hypnosis things just happen “on their own.”  For example, during hypnosis some people do or say things that they did not intend to do on a conscious level.  Sometimes, people assume what has occurred is the result of magic or even the occult.  In actuality, these phenomena are the result of their subconscious involvement in the process. 

Some people fear loss of control during hypnosis because of the apparent involuntariness they experience.  However, people are in control of whether they allow their subconscious to express itself through hypnosis, which often leads to greater accomplishment than with conscious effort alone. 

Finally, people can learn how to elevate the subconscious thinking to a level that they are more aware of it consciously, in which case that part of the mind might be better termed co-consciousness.  When this occurs, it can be thought of as people thinking with two minds at once, which is very empowering.  For example, an athlete in a team sport can learn to both focus on the ball, as well as be aware of the location of other players around him that will help him decide what to do after he catches/throws/hits the ball. 

The Subconscious as Co-Therapist 

In my practice of hypnosis and counseling I often rely on the patient’s subconscious as a guide to the therapy.  Once interactions with the patient’s subconscious are established, I might ask what symptoms we might first address in therapy or what is most bothersome to the patient.  Sometimes, I ask the subconscious whether it would be a good idea to ask the patient a particular question, which helps me avoid asking the patient questions that might be too upsetting.   

Information gained through interactions with the subconscious often leads to much more effective therapy, since the subconscious can often help identify core issues more readily than the conscious self.  The reason for this is that if a patient is anxious about a particular topic, she tends to avoid it.  However, the subconscious generally is able to discuss sensitive topics calmly. 

Interactions with the subconscious can be established through various methods including teaching patients how to allow their subconscious to move their fingers to indicate “yes” or “no”, or showing their subconscious how it can talk, write, or even type. 

 

Take Home Message 

The subconscious can be a source of great knowledge and inspiration.  By quieting the conscious mind, you can be more open to interacting with this invaluable inner resource. 

 

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Author
Profile Photo or Ran D. Anbar, MD, FAAP Ran D. Anbar, MD Ran D. Anbar, MD, FAAP, is board certified in both pediatric pulmonology and general pediatrics, offering hypnosis and counseling services at Center Point Medicine in La Jolla, California, and Syracuse, New York. Dr. Anbar is also a fellow and approved consultant of the American Society of Clinical Hypnosis. Dr. Anbar is a leader in clinical hypnosis, and his 20 years of experience have allowed him to successfully treat over 5,000 children. He also served as a professor of pediatrics and medicine and the director of pediatric pulmonology at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, New York, for 21 years.

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